Economist 10/6/15

  1. THE Economist tracks the health of housing in 26 markets around the world, encompassing a population of over 3 billion. Prices are now rising in 21 of these markets at a median pace of 4.7% a year. China’s housing market is one of only five countries in our index where prices are falling, joining Singapore and a trio of euro-zone countries—France, Greece and Italy. The government has been trying to boost the market over the past ten months which is now slowly responding.. One is affordability, measured by the ratio of prices to income per person after tax. The other is the case for investing in housing, based on the ratio of house prices to rents, much as stockmarket investors look at the ratio of equity prices to earnings. If these gauges are higher than their historical averages then property is deemed overvalued; if they are lower, it is undervalued. According to our measure, property is more than 30% overvalued in six of the markets we track, notably in Australia, Britain and Canada.
  2. THIS year’s Nobel prize in chemistry was awarded to three researchers who helped to discover how cells repair damaged DNA.five of the past ten chemistry prizes have been awarded for research that seems closer to biology than to chemistry. Fred Sanger, the only person to have won a chemistry Nobel twice, received both his awards for biological research, once for work on the structure of proteins, and once for developing a method of DNA synthesis.The prize categories were laid down in his will in 1895, at a time when the intellectual landscape looked very different. Biology was in its infancy, and so no award was established. These days, biology is the perhaps the most prominent of all the sciences. But the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which runs the prizes, must respect Nobel’s will, and thus has its hands tied. The chemistry prize seems to have become a way to honour the best non-medical biological research while still respecting the letter of Nobel’s wishes.The Nobels do not honour mathematics, the language of the sciences (a separate prize, the Fields Medal, is that discipline’s top award). Only three people can win one, a serious problem in physics, whose advances these days often come from giant collaborative projects.The dead are not eligible
  3. In 2013, an Israeli citizen named Eldad Gatt tried to book a flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to London’s Heathrow on Kuwait Airways. But the airline’s booking system didn’t allow him to purchase the ticket after he entered his Israeli passport information. That’s because Kuwaiti law prohibits its citizens from entering “into an agreement, personally or indirectly, with entities or persons residing in Israel, or with Israeli citizenship,” according to the airline.The DoT initially decided that Kuwait Airways hadn’t unlawfully discriminated against Mr Gatt. But after the Israeli appealed that ruling, it conducted a further review and reversed its decision.The DoT writes that the airline should have understood America’s anti-discrimination laws when it accepted its foreign air carrier permit in 2011.
  4. HUMANITY has succeeded in eradicating only one human disease: smallpox. Although polio has stolen the limelight as the one thought to be next on its way out, a lesser-known scourge may beat it. Dracunculiasis, otherwise known as Guinea-worm disease, is nearly gone. These two diseases are the only targets currently sanctioned for global eradication by the World Health Organisation.What makes a disease eradicable?In scientific terms, a disease is a worthy target if it does not spread easily, is straightforward to diagnose and has a short infectious phase. All the better if it cannot infect animals. These factors make it easier to find and treat the people who carry the pathogen such that they can be prevented from passing it to others. Another condition for any given disease is that there must already be methods to cut its transmission which are highly effective, cheap and easy to deploy.
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